Olympic Fever

Confessions, confessions. I really want to go to the Olympics. Not to see them, but to be in them. You know, walk the parade of nations. Beat the Russians. All that good stuff. I thought my Olympic desires were dead and gone but no. They’ve come back with a vengeance. Sure, I hardly have time to finish the dishes and I still haven’t found the hours needed to clean out my pit of a basement but if I could just settle on a sport, I’m sure I could squeeze in the requisite hours of daily training.

The biggest factor in reigniting the Olympic fire in my soul is watching the games with my kids for their first time. Every sport is somehow fascinating to them, like it once was to me. We find ourselves watching women’s beach volleyball, table tennis, synchronized diving, and lots of swimming. They always want to know which guys are our guys and where the other team is from. Though the built-in drama of the Communist block is no more, countries competing against countries still holds a thrill. And there’s always beating China.

As for my own early story, I remember with fondness, the sense of possibility the plethora of sports instilled. And now that I can bet on sports without Gamstop restrictions, AlI I have to do is find a team I feel confident in.
After a brief affair with ice skating (memories of the German skater Katarina Witt and her lovely costumes still linger) I settled on a usual (and unoriginal) summer game favorite, gymnastics. Box after box of Wheaties were consumed (even though I disliked them immensely) just so I could cut out the various pictures of Mary Lou Retton to hang on my bedroom wall. I’m sure I wasn’t the only ten year-old who signed up for gymnastics soon after the ’84 games. So when I hear my six year old son talking about wanting to compete in Olympic Archery, I completely relate.

Beyond dreams of Gold, I’ve been feeling as patriotic as all get out. Phelps makes me proud to be an American. Nothing better than watching our guy get trash talked before his races and then having him come out on top. Not once, not twice, but eight times. Go USA! Yeah! Let’s hear our Anthem one more time! I even find myself mouthing the words along with our athletes as they stand proudly atop the podium. Heck, I’ve sung aloud more than once. Even Seamus (who is just shy of two) comes bounding in the room upon hearing the first bars of the Olympic theme song. He too can sense the momentousness of the upcoming badminton game, with glory for team and country on the line. Makes my heart proud.

Now that I bought Nate a Wii for his birthday, I feel I could begin training at home in any number of sports. Maximize those naptimes and perfect my tennis serve. Once I’ve beat Nate and the kids, I’ll take it to the next level. A real court. Or maybe a ping-pong table (down with China!). London, 2012, here I come.

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24 thoughts on “Olympic Fever

  1. I completely relate! I too became Mary Lou Retton and my dad brought home matching U of I leotards for me and my sister to do balance beam on a shelf in our living room.
    Yesterday the news was on and someone mentioned Michael Phelps. My five-year-old daughter piped up, “I know him! He’s the fastest swimmer in the world!”
    What is it about the Olympics that makes such a powerful first impression on children?

  2. Hiya Paula,
    I think it’s something about using the superlative. A sense of competition (for better or for worse, at times) comes naturally to most kids so being able to say “I am the best in the world” has a strong appeal.

    And then the country thing gives everyone a sense of ownership and pride over the golds. It’s not just Mary Lou beating a Romanian but our country beating their country. We all win. What kid (or grownup) doesn’t enjoy that?

  3. Thank you Heather for your post, I now don’t feel so alone in my lifetime love of the Olympics. I too wanted badly to become a gymnast after watching the Olympics when I was young. I went to a couple of lessons but one of the coaches told me, around the age of 7, I was going to be way to tall to ever make it. It broke my heart but I suppose my 6 ft frame would never have made it around those uneven bars. After the winter Olympics once, I tried to do an ice skating jump in my living room and broke my wrist. But like you, there is a part of me that thinks if I just hit upon that right sport I would win gold.

  4. It’s not too late. There are a couple of women competing this year that have only been in their sport for a few years. I think their was one in the women’s marathon, and pole vaulting. She started the sport after the last summer olympics (sorry I can’t remember names) And what about our 42 y/o U.S. swimmer? Making sure her competitor got her shot at the gold by telling the judge about her ripped suit? Then taking a medal — Makes me proud to me an American.


  5. I would like to be on the Olympic napping team. Or who’s old enough to remember the competitive tanning storyline in Doonesbury? But I wouldn’t be good enough for that. Maybe I could aspire to the gold medal in couch potato, instead!

  6. I love the Olympics, too! I’m trying to figure out what to train for to be ready for 2012. After all, I’ll only be 57! Some of those equestrians are pretty old…

  7. Pam,
    If you qualify in an equestrian event, I think we should all make a group effort to be in London to cheer you on!

    (though I may already be there for my amazing table tennis skills)

  8. When the dishes are done, the kids are asleep in their beds, and the house is semi-straightened, I throw up my hands, thrust out my chest, and salute the judges like a fourteen, I mean sixteen year old gymnast. And…just for good measure, I turn around and make sure to salute the crowd on all sides. Hey…I’m a Greek girl. I have an excuse to love the Olympics. It’s the games of my people.

  9. Your mother is VERY tired from staying up until the last anthem at 1 am every night! I would have loved watching the games with the kids…but if you make it to the 2012 London Olympics, I will come and babysit and then take the kids book shopping when you are not competing. See you next week. xxoo

  10. I’ve been an Olympic junkie since 1968 when Bob Beamon jumped 29 feet in the long jump. I was 12. I am thoroughly enjoying these games, even though the drama gets too much at times, or the hours too late. Last night the men’s beach volleyball was coming on at 11 and I had to get up early, and they were losing the first part of the first set. I asked my daughter to check on line to see who won, but I swear that was the only time I cheated. Never was competative enough to even imagine going to the games as an athlete, but enjoy them just the same.

  11. Love this post! For me, I was 9 and it was Janet Evans in the 88 Olympics. My fate was sealed. I started swimming competitively a few weeks later and continued in the sport as an athlete, coach and teacher until I got married and other things took over…like those dishes. 🙂

    My 6 year old daughter has gone the predictable gymnastic route as well. My 2 1/2 year old son (to my beaming pride) keeps asking for “mo’ fim!”, translated “More swimming!”.

    Now, aren’t you actually some amazing surfer? Surfing should definitely be an Olympic sport if SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING is…and BMX? Come on. Just start lobbying for surfing and I think you’ll be in. 🙂

  12. I think they may have had surfing as an exhibition sport in Sydney but that’s one of the years I was traveling during the games. Surfing is not the easiest sport to judge and then there’s that whole need for an ocean with good waves thing…

  13. I hereby swear that I am not trying to rain on your parade.

    But I think that as I look back on my childhood we only watched the winter Olympics. I don’t know why, really. It’s just the way I grew up, and how I work now. Of course, my mom might tell a different story about me being the stick in the mud who took off to go do something else while everybody else watched the amazing gymnasts.

  14. Boy do I feel young! The Olympics I remember watching as a child was in 1996! I would have been 13 then. I was in gymnastics at the time, and in love with Dominique Mocceaneau. The thrill of watching the Magnificient 7 take home the gold, was one I’ll never forget!

  15. You go girl! You make it to the Olympic and I’m there. I’m sure with all your spare time and limbering after babies you could go right back into training in gymnastics. giggle.

  16. Thanks for supporting my dreams everyone! Kim, (nice to see you!) although I saw the thirty-something girl win for Germany, my dreams for gymnastics gold faded by the time I reached fourteen. Too many injuries and I was already well past the ideal height for the sport. Surfing did take its place, until Idaho and kids…and bean, there is good surf in the UK. I taught at a surf camp in Croyde Bay. Beautiful place. There are heaps of good surf spots in Ireland as well.

    As much as I’ve enjoyed these past weeks, I’m glad to see the games end. Lots of late nights.

  17. Pam, you’ve got the right idea with the equestrian events. I remember hearing something about one of the regular US Equestrian Team members not competing until he was 49! (I don’t know if he was riding before then or not, though). Then there’s the horse who was purchased for roughly $600 – by the pound from the meatmarket, who went on to compete for the US internationally.

    I KNOW that, if I really got back into serious riding, and put the time and money into it, I could make the olympics in 15-25 years. But by the end of it, my daughter would be grown and I wouldn’t know her, and it’d be too late to have any more children, and my husband and I wouldn’t even recognize one another. I gave up my dreams of olympic glory when I married my husband, but I am fully convinced that the glory of a full home is far beyond whatever possibilities I’ve lost.

  18. Damp squib response: no watching the Olympics here. We decided it was too difficult for young children to differentiate the razzamatazz from the regime. Can they understand that it’s O.K. to entertain China’s propaganda because sport is exciting and that we’ll temporarily overlook the imprisoning and persecuting of Christians? Not sure we could, so we decided to forego it this time.
    Hope we’ve sorted out our own (U.K.) human rights record a bit more before 2012.

  19. I completely relate Heather. I reveal my age by saying it was Olga Korbet in 1972 that sparked my Olympic dreams. I did put many hours and years into the sport of gymnastic and remember at around 11 being certain if I just learned a couple key moves on beam and bars I would be Olympic bound myself. Now I am 40ish and had to go to bed at 9:30 and have my husband wake me at 11:00 for prime time gymnastics. It never gets old to me though, and I am amazed at the new skill level they come up with each Olympics. I can rarely say to my kids anymore, “I used to do that trick”. I have no more Olympic dreams for myself but am certain you are the type, Heather, that could still go for the gold with enough time and the right sport. “Just do it” as some famous golfer likes to say.:0)

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